World-class sailing bays, secluded beaches and a Caribbean culture all of its own await you in the British Virgin Islands. Whether you fancy sailing around Tortola or sipping rum punch in a Jost Van Dyke beach bar, you need to add this archipelago to your bucket list.
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) may be known as a paradise playground for the ultra-rich, but its four main islands – Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke – are open to everyone. Many travellers arrive under sail, as the BVI is one of the top sailing spots in the Caribbean, while others come to sunbathe on the pristine beaches. Here are the top reasons to book a trip.
Cooling trade winds constantly sweep these subtropical shores, and the temperature remains pretty constant, averaging 24–28C year-round. The best time to visit is between April and May for peak dry season and warmer evenings. Things cool down after sunset from December to April, though you’ll still enjoy those balmy days. Hurricane season runs from June to November.
Drop anchor in a secluded white-sand bay and while away the day aboard a yacht. The islands are truly a sailing mecca, with over 50 uninhabited islands, near-constant winds and no shortage of boat services. In fact, many hotels and restaurants offer moorings. For those who don’t know their jib from their mainsail, there are numerous sailing companies to metaphorically and literally show you the ropes – aye aye, captain.
Wipe the sleep from your eyes, grab your snorkel mask and walk the short distance from your room to the shore. You’re never far from world-class snorkelling opportunities in the BVI, from shipwrecks to shallow bays, full of marine life. One of our favourite spots is the Indians, a towering crag of three rocky peaks. Underwater, there are soft corals, sea fans and an abundance of tropical fish. Look out, too, for the occasional dolphin or turtle.
Fine offshore coral makes for white-sand beaches across most of the British Virgin Islands, but the aptly named White Bay is the most famous of all. Head to Jost Van Dyke, the smallest of the four main islands, for a long moon-shaped beach fronted by low-key shack bars and moored yachts. Don’t expect to have this spot to yourself, as the secret is long since out. Head to the western end of Tortola, to Smuggler’s Cove, if you want desert island seclusion.
Barefoot luxury is the name of the game. The British Virgin Islands offer a more relaxed style of five-star resort than the neighbouring Caribbean islands. Take Rosewood Little Dix Bay, for example, where beach umbrellas dot the half-mile stretch of sand, each one complete with a call button for ordering drinks direct to your lounger. For something more rustic but utterly away from it all, venture to the Anegada Reef Hotel. It’s been owned by the same family since the 1970s. Write your name at the honesty bar by the beach, and settle up when you’re done.
Fancy your own private island, but not a billionaire? Not a problem. Many of the most scenic resorts in the BVI occupy their own shores, leaving you free to explore tropical islands shared only with other guests. Head to Guana Island, with a maximum of 35 guests spread across the whole island paradise, including seven beaches. Family-owned Peter Island is slightly larger and flashier, with sprawling villas, plunge pools and superyachts docking at the marina; only guests are allowed on this tiny, mountainous islet.
Characterful watering holes line the beach at Jost Van Dyke, and you can spend an afternoon drifting from one to the other. Try the Soggy Dollar Bar, or the evocatively named Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar. Wander the sands and you’ll get to Seddy’s One Love Bar and Grill – you’ll recognise it by the cluster of buoys and fishing nets attached to the beach shack bar. Save room for fresh lobster.
Looking for more? If you need somewhere to stay while you’re here, book into one of the best hotels in the British Virgin Islands, or read about the Saba Rock Resort, on its own private island. For more inspiration, read our guide to the most beautiful places on these Caribbean isles, including the best beaches. While you’re here, don’t miss out on the best bars on Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands.